Shaningwa sending 'wrong message'

31 October 2018 | Politics

Swapo secretary-general Sophia Shaningwa has come under fire from political commentators for coming to the defence of party leader Tobie Aupindi, who was found guilty of corruption and fined in the Windhoek Magistrate's Court last week.

Shaningwa was reported to have said that Aupindi's conviction over N$50 000 was “unfair” because others went scot-free after having stolen millions.

Human rights lawyer Norman Tjombe said Shaningwa's comments were “inappropriate” and “sent the wrong message” to party members and the public for suggesting a criminal transgression, which she considered minor, should be pardoned in court.

Tjombe said her comment also cast doubt on Magistrate Helvi Shilemba, who made the ruling last week.

Political analyst Phanuel Kaapama said he was particularly curious about her allegation that others who had stolen millions walked free.

“What is of interest to me is who those people are who stole millions she purports to know about. What evidence does she have to that effect and if she has any information, why does she not report it to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) as the law requires? She must uphold the law,” Kaapama said.

Commentator Graham Hopwood said Swapo should go back to former President Hifikepunye Pohamba's undertaking in 2005 to pursue a policy of zero tolerance of corruption at party and state level.

He said given that undertaking, Swapo should have taken a stance that no one with a criminal conviction should hold any position in the party structures or at state institutions.





Integrity and accountability by party and state leaders are coming in sharp focus in neighbouring South Africa, where the African National Congress's integrity committee has taken a strong stance against any and all of its leaders who are implicated in the VBS Mutual Bank scandal.

At home, Tjombe said one would expect political parties should in any event have internal debates about how to deal with those convicted of transgressions.

He said particularly large parties with influence on how matters of state are conducted should seriously consider what bearing convicted persons in their midst would have on internal discipline, or risk being seen as perpetuating criminal behaviour.

Kaapama said it is unfortunate when parties' constitutions and codes of conduct do not deal with such matters, especially if political parties say they are serious about fighting corruption and other illegalities.

Hopwood echoed this sentiment, saying political parties ought to have very clear, enforceable rules against any form of misconduct, and should clearly state that convicted persons may not hold any position in party structures.

Shaningwa did not respond to questions sent to her.

CATHERINE SASMAN

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